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Guest Post By Carolyn J. Rose, Author Of … ‘No Substitute For Money’

Image of a book giveaway badge

Today, to coincide with the release of her latest book in the Barbara Reed series, ‘No Substitute For Money’, I am passing over the ‘Meet The Authors’ page, here at Fiction Books, to author Carolyn J. Rose, who publishes her guest blog.

If you read and enjoy this post, are intrigued by the premise of ‘No Substitute For Money’ and would like the opportunity to win an e-copy of the book, courtesy of Carolyn, simply leave your comment together with a link to your contact page, so that Carolyn can let the lucky winner know. Closing date for entries is Midnight on Friday 31st May 2013.

Oh! … as this is an e-copy, there are no geographic boundaries, so everyone can enter!!

I did give Carolyn the brief that she could talk about anything she wanted, not even thinking that she would choose …

Wait for it … SNAKES!!

Even the modest formatting of this post has caused me to shudder and cringe, bringing back as it did, memories of my own recent encounter with one of the slippery critters!

Over to you Carolyn …


Carolyn J. Rose

Photograph of author Carolyn J. Rose

I am the author of several novels, including ‘Hemlock Lake’ and its sequel  ‘Through a Yellow Wood’; ‘An Uncertain Refuge’ and its sequel ‘Sea of Regret’; ‘No Substitute for Murder’ and the sequel to that, ‘No Substitute for Money’, which will be released in June, 2013.

I have also penned a young-adult fantasy, ‘Drum Warrior’, with my husband, Mike Nettleton ( the second protagonist of the Deadly Duo Mysteries team), as well as several mysteries now out of print, but soon to be re-released.

I grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.

I founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers and I am an active supporter of my local bookstore, Cover to Cover. My interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.

I don’t mind seeing a snake at a distance—four yards being about right—but I wouldn’t want to find one in my shower stall or silverware drawer or under the hood of my car. (Yvonne, you’re now on the spot to tell us about that in the comment space.)

Neither would I want one as a companion. I can’t imagine petting a snake, cuddling with a snake, attempting to teach a snake to fetch or roll over.

Nor would I want to chase one down with the intention of grilling and eating it as my uncles used to do with rattlesnakes on the ledges of the Catskill Mountains.

Still, snakes are fascinating. And they’re useful for changing the course of a story.

I wrote up-close confrontations with poisonous snakes into Hemlock Lake and A Place of Forgetting. Through Dan Stone and Liz Roark, I explored my own fears and preconceptions and considered what I might do in similar situations.

Neither character could avoid the fangs and venom. Dan is struck in an attempt to escape a rattler hidden in his car by a killer. Liz gets bit as she slogs through a flooded field to save a toddler from a cottonmouth (water moccasin).

(Clicking on the book images will take you directly to their respective Amazon pages, where you can check out the synopses.)

I’m not sure I would have the courage to make myself a target as Liz did. Normally, when I see a snake I freeze. Then I go the other way.

Except once

It was 1980 and I was sweating through a scorching summer in Little Rock, Arkansas, when two friends invited me to hike with them to Twin Falls in the Ozark National Forest. It would be cooler up in the hills, they said, and the map indicated it was only a short hike, just a couple of miles.

(Note to self: Remember that the map is not the terrain.)

Laden with food and gear for an overnight stay, we set out along a trail that paralleled a stream. Within moments we encountered our first snake. It was a rattler, stretched across the trail, aware of us, but too sluggish with the heat to coil or raise its head.

My gut clenched and my heart pounded as we left the trail, picked our way across a rocky slope and around patches of poison ivy, and returned to the path well past the snake.

Fifty yards later we saw a copperhead. It was huge but listless. One of my friends tossed a rock that landed beside it. The snake slid off toward the creek.

Heat and humidity slowed our pace to a faltering stumble. Poison ivy crowded close along the trail. Hoping to avoid a rash and cool off, we bushwhacked down to the creek—and found it crawling with snakes. The drought had driven them to water.

I lost track of the number we spotted slipping under rocks or undulating through shallow pools or stretched out on logs. My gut ceased to knot up. My heart kept up a slow and steady pace. Toward the end of the trek, tired of trudging around snakes and poison ivy, I leaped over a dozing rattler.

Image of a rattlesnake

Would I make the same choice now?

Probably not.

For one thing, I’m thirty years older and a lot less likely to leap far enough—if I can leap at all. For another, thanks to the reading I did for those books, I know more about snake venom than I did then.

And, although I never say “never,” I think I’ve written enough snakes into my plots. Protagonist Barbara Reed won’t encounter any in my latest book, No Substitute for Money. She will come across a few snakes in the grass—computer hackers, drug dealers, and a condo manager out to mess up her boyfriend’s plans to move in.


Substitute teacher Barbara Reed knows better than to say the word “perfect.” Using the P-word is a sure way to jinx romance, finance, and circumstance.

Despite a chronic shortage of funds, things are looking up for Barb after the events of NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MURDER. She’s completing grad school and hoping for a job at Captain Meriwether High School in Reckless River, Washington. Her drug-cop boyfriend, Dave Martin, wants to move in and his daughter is all in favor. Even Barb’s tiny dog Cheese Puff has no objections—undaunted by size, he’s infatuated with Dave’s partner Lola, a drug-sniffing Golden Retriever.

Then Dave uses the P-word. And Barb’s luck leaves town.

Her car breaks down, her domineering sister comes for a visit, the condo manager plots to ban dogs, her jailed ex-husband begs her to be a character witness at his trial, a computer hacker creates chaos at the high school, and a hulking thug threatens violence.

Just when it appears things can’t get worse, Lola sniffs out a package in her car and a drug dealer decides Barb and Cheese Puff are his tickets out of trouble.

Thanks for talking with us today Carolyn. Now I have finished shuddering at the picture of you stepping over a live (it may have had one eye open whilst it was dozing!!!) ‘rattler’, I should just add that my own encounter, although not with quite such a deadly snake, was scary enough, given that we were in a foreign country and had no idea what the heck variety of  the creature it actually was, let alone whether it was poisonous or not!

Don’t forget that to be in with a chance of winning an e-copy of ‘No Substitute For Money’, you need to leave your comment now, with a link to your contact page …. ‘Good Luck’ to everyone who enters!


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I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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  • Interesting and insightful post, thanks to you both. Totally intrigued by the thought of Carolyn writing a novel with her husband, I can only begin to imagine the,err, heated discussions there would be if we chose to do this.

    A great giveaway, good luck to everyone who enters but please do not enter me.

    • Hi Tracy,

      Heated discussions would be putting it mildly. We couldn’t even do it by each writing our own section in a separate room then bringing them together, the result would still be the same …. World War Three!!

      Mind you, we are both Gemini’s, so there are definitely four of us in this marriage!!

      I admire any two authors who can co-operate collectively to produce a cohesive and sensible storyline, let alone a best seller.

      Two people in the same household writing their own best selling stories, as Carolyn and Mike also do, must be difficult enough.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, I appreciate it.

    • Actually I would categorically deny we had any “heated discussions”. We did however have a number of brisk talks in which objects of various sizes were thrown and ducked from. Writing with Carolyn was big gun and we may try it again someday. Strangely, when my wife is asked about it, the words “over my dead body” seem to come up. What’s odd is that we can go back and read material we co-wrote and not be able to discern who wrote what.

    • Hi Tracy,

      I shall never go completely paperless, believe me!!

      The look, smell and feel of an actual book, just can’t be beaten really and to browse a bookshop is one of life’s joys for me! (I know … sad and easily pleased )

      Thanks for being so honest and sticking to your principles.

  • Yvonne, Thanks for letting me hang out in your virtual living room and chat with those who stop by. Before we sign off for the day, I hope to collect some snake stories from some of you.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      You are most welcome, thank you for such an interesting post.

      I am not a huge fan of the traditional ‘question and answer’ type interviews, if they can possibly be avoided.

      The more spontaneous post, where the author has the opportunity to ‘think outside the box’, is much more interesting. However you would be amazed at just how many authors don’t seem to be able to do it this way, when they are put on the spot and given the opportunity to have their say.

      This post will stay at the top of the page until Friday midnight, so hopefully you might have collected a few snake stories by then.

  • Thanks, Carolyn, for my morning shudder. My up-close-and-personal encounter with a snake was a boa constrictor named, aptly, Snake, whom I met, along with my new dorm mate at the beginning of my junior year at Arizona State University. Snake lived in an aquarium, when he/she/it wasn’t be carried around shoulders and necks of my roommate and her friends. One day, out on the grassy courtyard of our dorm, dozens of us were smearing suntan oil and lying out under the hot Arizona sun. I thought I saw–it’s a cliche–a snake in the grass. Let me tell you how quickly I bolted upright. “Snake has a vitamin D deficiency,” my roommate said. I never let on that I was terrified of snakes; I couldn’t or I might have found myself rolling over to a snake one night, which I did later when I started dating.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks for stopping by today and adding your much appreciated snake encounter story to the discussion.

      ‘Snake’ may have had a vitamin D deficiency, but I’ll bet he wasn’t on the point of a heart attack!!

      Oh! how we all try to be brave and nonchalant in the face of our worst nightmares … One of my own snake encounters involves grass … We were visiting Florida on vacation, in December about 3 years ago. The previous year we had discovered a lovely retreat called ‘Bok Tower Gardens’ and had decided to make a return visit, to listen to the outdoor Christmas Carillon Concert. We had positioned ourselves on a bench close to the Carillon Tower, quite close to the edge of a large grassed area. Some passers by who approached where we were sitting and had crossed the grass, told us to watch out, as they had seen a snake in the grass, heading our way. With that a 4 to 5 feet long, large black snake, slithered out of the grass and literally inches from our feet, crossed the path in front of us, disappearing into the bushes opposite.

      Did we lift our feet? No! …. Did we stand on the bench? No! … Did we try to walk away from the snake? No! … Like complete morons, we sat there like statues and watched it come so close to us, without knowing what type of snake it was and whether or not it was poisonous and hubbie even had the forethought to film it !!!

      It turns out that the large black snakes aren’t poisonous, but apparently we needed to watch out for the small brown ones which have a very nasty bite, as a local took great delight in telling us and showing us both arms and legs covered in said snake bites.

      Needless to say, we were much more savvy and wary on our return visit the following year ….. or were we?? I might treat you to ‘Snake In A Car’ later in the week.

  • Forgot to add–I already have every one of Carolyn Rose’s novels, including the most recent, so no need to put me into the contest. I’m looking forward to many hours of delightful entertainment. I’ve been waiting for the sequel to No Substitute for Murder. Congratulations, Carolyn!

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thanks to Carolyn’s generosity I also have quite a selection of her books, which I promise faithfully I shall read and review just as soon as possible.

      ‘An Uncertain Refuge’ was my Carolyn J. Rose debut and if all the other titles I now have on my Kindle are anything like as suspenseful and intriguing, then I shall be more than happy.

      There is nothing better than a good mystery … except for another good mystery!!

  • I have only one astute comment: Ew! Ick! What’s next, spiders?
    Really, though, you do have a way of weaving a good story. Such talent!

    • Hi Pam,

      It was good to have you stop by today to add to the discussion, many thanks.

      I can only assume from your comment, that your relationship with Carolyn and her many disparate characters, goes back some time.

      My own experience has been much more recent and to date I have only read one of Carolyn’s books ‘An Uncertain Refuge’, which was a great hit and not a snake in sight!

      Carolyn is so easy to talk to, has been a real joy to work with and very generous. I now have almost the full suite of Carolyn J. Rose titles in my review pile and I am going to break the habit of a lifetime and read each series in chronological order!!

      Enjoy the rest of your week.

      • Hi Pam,

        Hubbie just put a re-run of ‘Evan Almighty’ on the TV and couldn’t understand why I started to laugh, when in one scene, Evan is driving his car, whilst two snakes are slithering up over his shoulders from behind and two huge spiders are crawling up the side of his face ….. snakes and spiders together OMG!!

  • Elizabeth – I’m so glad snakes weren’t allowed in the dorms at the U of Arizona where I went – I did find a horned toad in the shower one day when I was visiting a friend – but we’ll save that for another post.

    Pam – no spiders. I usually call Mike to get them and if he’s not home I spray them with window cleaner to stun them before I go after them with an enormous wad of paper towels.

    And Petty Witter – Mike and I wrote 5 books together and while collaboration seems to square creativity, it also squares disagreements about plot, characters, and imagery. We still consult each other, but now it’s solo projects.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      Now frogs and toads are something completely different, you would find me running a mile from one of those.

      I am definitely the spider and other small bug catcher in our household. I don’t generally spray them first, but I will squash them in paper towel, rather than collect them up and release them outside. I am always getting berated by friends and family alike, over what is to them, my inhumane treatment of said creatures. To my mind, if you catch them only to release them again, surely they are just going to turn around and come back into the nice cozy house from whence they were evicted.

      • I remember my grandfather doing the catch-and-release thing with the squirrels gorging on the food my grandmother put out for the birds. He’d drive them miles away, but the squirrel population didn’t seem to diminish. Finally he put a dab of paint on the tail of each squirrel trapped. Within a few days of their release there were paint-splattered squirrels at the bird feeder again. He gave up and got out his rifle. But my grandmother wouldn’t sanction that and sent him to the store to buy more sunflower seeds instead.

  • So, Yvonne… which is worse for you… cats or snakes?! 😀

    I’m OK with snakes and don’t really have a problem with them. Although, I don’t think I’d want to be confronted with a venomous one or one that could squeeze the life out of me!

    • Hi Nikki,

      Touche, but that really is a bit below the belt !!!

      You already know that I am scared witless of cats, but not knowing or having the time to examine a snake and determine whether or not it is of the venomous or killing variety is also more than a little worrying.

      A ‘Catch 22’ situation!

      OK, so you are asking me to choose? …. Cats still win, by a short whisker !!


        • Yes Carolyn,

          All shapes and sizes …. and it even has a name ‘Ailurophobia’


          It is the fur in general and the eyes in particular and the thought of having one jump up into my lap makes me feel physically sick!

          I am also a bit like it with any other small furry animals, such as hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs. It is something to do with being able to feel the skeleton beneath the fur.

          Weird I know, but I have been like this since childhood!

            • Hi Nikki,

              I didn’t know there was actually a phobia about the fear of cats. I only looked it up out of interest after one of our conversations and couldn’t have been more surprised when something came up.

  • Entertaining guest post ladies! She leaped over a dozing rattler?! Yikes! the book sounds good and cute name for a pup, Cheese Puff.
    Also, nice that the author grew up in the Catskill Mountains, it’s beautiful there.

    • Hi Naida,

      I guess that we have all done silly things, which could be potentially dangerous, without thinking about it until later, when you suddenly realise just what might have happened! You know, the kind of things that we tell children to beware of all the time, when really it is us adults who are the main culprits!

      I must admit, that mention New York and I immediately think just of the City. I never even guessed at some of the beautiful areas being so close to all that hustle and bustle. Your comment actually made me take the time to check out the tourist information site for The Catskill Mountains and it certainly does look spectacular and such a lovely place to live.

      It is pretty much the same if you mention London to someone from overseas. They immediately think of the City, when in reality, there are some beautiful suburbs to be found so very close by. Although of course, being such a small Country, getting away from City life, is so much easier.

      You say that Cheese Puff is a cute name for a dog, now try thinking how it would sound if a fully grown man is out in his garden, shouting for the dog to come in at night!! I am not particularly a small dog person ( cute though they are, we are back to the same fur and bones issue as cats now), so a Golden Retriever like Lola sounds much more my kind of dog.

      Thanks for stopping by and good luck in the e-book competition.

    • Bookworm, sounds like you’ve been to the Catskills. I try to get back every few years. Those old mountains call to me – except in the winter.
      The snake in the photograph, by the way, resides in the Catskills. My brother was called to remove it from a friend’s yard two summers ago.

  • Snakes will do it. I was trying to figure out how to get my protagonist oujt of a bad situation, when I arrived upon the perfect foil for any villain–a bag of snakes dropping from a tree. The location is rural Florida, so how perfect. Like you I can look at snakes from a distance, but not up close. And getting a bunch of them dropping on my head? Ugh.

    • Hi Lesley,

      Thanks for stopping by to join the slippery conversation, I am sure that Carolyn will be delighted to have provided such a creative idea for sorting out your villain! … But really, a whole sack of snakes! … and are any of them going to be venomous?

      Both of my own snake encounters have happened when we have visited Florida, from the UK, so now that I know that you are in residence during the winter months, which is when we usually venture acroos the pond, I shall be especially vigilant and keep a good look out for low hanging sacks in all the trees!! LOL

      Mind you, our own second experience of finding a snake in our rental car, wasn’t all that funny either! … Another possibility for a gruesome ending for your villain?

  • One of the things that’s interesting to develop when you’re working on a book is discovering what your characters fear. It might be snakes, it might be vacuum cleaners (if he’s a dog, say) or it could be commitment if you’re a confirmed bachelor. I once had a friend, the most macho guy you’ll ever want to meet who would dissolve into a quivering puddle on the floor at the sight of a spider.

    WE all fear something. As a writer it’s a great tool for making our people real and alive.

    • Hi Mike,

      Well, you only have to include a cat, or any other small furry mammal in the equation somewhere and that’s me done for!!

  • Much of what we fear is passed on to us by our parents or siblings. Same with food preferences. If you had a terrifying encounter with a cat or dog at a young age, you probably will have qualms on through adulthood. What’s fun in writing is finding a way to incorporate those fears into the story line. Think Indiana Jones. “Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?”

    • Hi Mike,

      I know for a fact that what you say is true, as my own mother had the same innate fear of cats.

      It is pretty much the same with water, she was terrified of water and drowning, never learnt to swim and never actively encouraged either my brother or myself to take lessons. Result, neither of us likes the water, or can swim, although both of my brother’s girls swim like fish!

      Luckily, I have overcome most of the food taboos which were instilled in us as children.

      • I don’t have food taboos, but I’m a picky eater–the consequence, I think, of having to eat everything put on my plate when I was young.

        I am, however, a great swimmer.

        Mike, on the other hand, swims like an anvil.

        • Hi Carolyn,

          We also used to have to eat everything put on our plates as children, or have it served up again for the following meals, until we did eat it!

          Now I will eat, or at least try, almost everything. The only things I really won’t eat are offal (liver, kidney etc) and eggs (apart from boiled or hard-boiled which I love).

          Apart from that, you can take me anywhere and I shan’t starve!!

Written by Yvonne